In this interview with CHIEMEKA ADINDU, Director General, Due Process and Price Intelligence Bureau, Alphonsus Eba who is also an aspirant for the position of the State Chairman of the Peoples democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State is very optimistic that both the Supreme Court and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC have fooled the member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe by giving him the hope that he won the December 5, 2020 Cross River North Senatorial District bye-election. He also alleged that Jarigbe is being sponsored by the governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike.
As a lawyer, can we get your interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling last Thursday?
On Thursday, 25th day of February, Senator Dr. Stephen Odey’s attempt to join as an interested party in that suit which one John Alaga, Honourable Jarigbe’s boy who he used to go and sue in Abuja while he still has a matter here in both Port Harcourt and Calabar on the question of who the candidate of PDP was. And remember that on the 5th of September, primary was conducted for the bye-election of Cross River Northern Senatorial District; Senator Odey defeated him squarely by 450 votes against 90. That very day I was present and I speak with the fear of God not of man; that is what he thought he could use the instrument of law to perpetrate his fraud. But, God is God; he failed because that matter in Port Harcourt was transferred to Calabar, he lost on the 3rd day of December. And unknown to us he has procured a judgment since 4th of November and kept it immediately after he failed; he got a judgment in Abuja in Justice Mohammed Binta’s court in Abuja. That judgment was instituted by one John Alaga, his boy and John Alaga now went to sue him and the question he went to ask was that did this guy provide fake information to INEC? Those were the questions he was asking for determination, of course, because he was not a candidate of the party; there is no way he would have supplied false information because it is only a candidate of a party that the party will give a nomination form to fill from CFO001, that is the form that has to do with your personal affidavit. Unfortunately, these are the kind of useless, stupid, ignorant and very very un-intellectual political practice that we know people in the South-East to practice. The Senator died from my own local government in Yala and it was the decision of the party to say for these two years, let us look for somebody from that area to go and complete it and we all agreed. You, you’re sitting Member of the House of Reps and you want to go and challenge him because you have one of your godfathers in Port Harcourt who will use the whole oil money to help you do whatever you are doing, God will put all of them to shame. That is exactly what the Supreme did; that even with all the money they went with, the Supreme Court did them 419. Those four Justices did them 419 in case they don’t know.
From the ruling of Justice Mohammed Binta, it stated that there was a nomination form filled by Jarigbe with the same code, CFO001 you just mentioned.
No there was nothing like that my dear brother. If you have it show me, there was nothing like that, there was nothing like that and I tell you; I’m a lawyer of 14, 15 years standing but with very sound and rich knowledge of the law. I have not practiced in the past 5 years but law has agreed not to leave my vein, it is still alive in me and in my blood stream so whatever I’m telling you, I’m talking to you as a very distinguished God fearing lawyer. What Justice Binta did was the most absurd judgment that a law student sitting as a judge, if it is allowed in our legal jurisprudence will not do. That was why in trying to mock them on the day that the judgment was delivered I went to my Facebook page and wrote there was no consequential order ooo, I was trying to mock them.
What do you mean by consequential order?
Good, those orders that follow the natural cause of an action for which the court or any institution called upon to take action of judgment coming out of a court will give effect to, those are consequential orders. In the consequential order of Justice Binta they said he should be given privileges of being the winner of primaries of PDP, he should be treated as a candidate. The question is; is it the court that chooses candidates for political parties? And the answer is no. the second point is; how can you sue on an issue that has to do with the winner of primaries and did not join the political party where the person is trying to come from; you did not join the man that the court in which the party said, this is the winner of the primaries. You went with one fake report by one INEC supervisor that came to monitor elections that ran away on the day of election. And that is the report he came and said that is the result of the primaries he participated in, when the party sent its own returning officer, electoral panel and they took a report to the party, it was on the case of that report that the party declared Senator Odey winner, sent his name to INEC and it was only Senator Odey that filed that nomination form online and it was received and his name was published and he went into that election and won on the 5th of December and after winning that election because it is the provision of the law that you give certificate of return to only the winner of any general election, Senator Odey was given certificate of return as the winner of the general election. What INEC did after having been pressurized by their big men working in collision with their godfather in Port Harcourt was to do them another 419. You can go back to history and memory lane and check the number of certificates of return INEC has issued to people. Once a returning certificate does not follow the process of the law, it is like the worthless Zimbabwean dollar and that is what Jarigbe is holding in his hands.
If what Justice Binta did to Jarigbe was 419, why then did Dr. Odey need to bother himself to approach the Supreme Court?
What motivated him was that the court of appeal again went as far as affirming that 419, that illegality of a judgment. But you see, in our land if a judgment is given by a drunken judge, by a mad judge, you must first obey it. And so what Senator Odey wanted to do was to go and put the facts before the Supreme Court because if he decides to fold his hands people will say okay, you slept over your right. Get it right, they were going nicodemously, hiddenly like a criminal at night to file a suit and not allowing people to know, to get judgment and hide it, if you allow them and they get to the Supreme Court and that matter is determined finally because the Supreme Court will not know. The Supreme Court will be thinking that Jarigbe is the man that was the sitting senator and John Alaga was only coming to take his seat and the Supreme Court will be thinking they’re doing the right thing. Just like we were trying to excuse Binta at the Court of appeal that perhaps they did not know the scenario that was playing between these people because the other person was not here but, the only area we faulted was that every reasonable judge would have sat down to ask the question, where is the political party, where is the electoral panel’s report? Those are fundamental questions you would have asked not just the concocted documents they were bringing and the court of appeal would have said too, if the lower court says this person has no jurisdiction why do you go to make orders again just like the Supreme Court behaved. Supreme Court said no because your appeal is incompetent we don’t have jurisdiction to entertain it and that is where it stopped. It was the other three judges of the Supreme Court that said no, this appeal has merit, we must hear it and when they went into hearing it you see how they demolished all that Justice Binta and the court of appeal did. That even if you’re drunk, how can you say you don’t have jurisdiction and you went in to make a consequential order. In fact, the Lady Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ogunwemeji or what is her name. I left the court that day fulfilled. After the retirement of Justice Mary A., I thought we would never find good women again with the characters of some women we have at the Supreme Court today. Justice Ogunwemeji, may God bless her generation unborn; that a woman will have courage and look at his colleagues and say this is what we are doing that is putting the judiciary in bad light. How can somebody lose election and while this matter was on he went and withdrew the suit from the court of appeal because he knew that he was lying to us, that kind of human being that would have been jailed, you sit down here and say we should not hear the matter; we should not bring the judiciary to disrepute. She was bold enough to tell the only Justice, Justice Nweze, who gave the lead majority judgment. The other three could not come out, they were ashamed, the three Justices could not come to court and I challenge them, they’re my lords but I challenge them , they should tell the world what made them not to come and sit down to deliver their judgment. In fact, one of the Judges sent his document through his secretary; it’s unheard of, that a justice of the Supreme Court can send his Judgment through a secretary.
With all that you’ve said, Can we say that we have lost confidence in the judiciary?
No, no, no we cannot say we have lost confidence in the judiciary, we will continue to pick those people that have attained the level of abysmality, that have become so putrid and rotten, we will identify them and mention their names so that out of shame they will know. I remember when the judgment of Cross River state oil well was bought with over 6 billion by Akwa-Ibom and what happened? I left the court that day, a very young lawyer I was and I said God, may you bring course upon this man and his generation; go back and ask, everybody will tell you how Justice D. Mustapha died. He was begging and waiting for death to come, death took time to come and kick him off; he died in shame. That is how some of these Justices will die for subverting the will of our people.
So going forward, what is going to happen? What’s the next step?
Yes, I am a lawyer, to tell a journalist what will happen; journalists should wait and see what will happen so that they will report. I should not tell a journalist what will happen but, the good thing I can tell you is that no single order was made by the court that affected the seat of Senator Odey. And I pray that the senate of the Federal Republic will be courageous enough just like they were courageous the day they brought that tissue paper called certificate of return in favour of Jarigbe to be sworn in and the senate president told them, take it away; I pray that senate president will remain still courageous and the leadership of the senate to letting them know that once a certificate of return has been issued the only court under section 285 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended is election petition tribunal and that is the only court now that can make a pronouncement nullifying that certificate of return.
But from what we know, the election petition tribunal does not handle pre-election matters (cuts in)
That matter has graduated beyond pre-election matters to post-election. The moment Senator Odey was sworn in and became a sitting senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by the provision of section 285 sub-section 13, he was the only one that has participated in all the processes of the election and don’t forget, that section 285 sub-section 13 was made pursuant to section 141 of the electoral act 2010 as amended. And don’t forget too, that it’s a decision that came to correct the mischief of Amaechi versus PDP before Amaechi’s case. And don’t forget, this man they call governor Wike has been a problem in this country. Remember how he touted himself to be the one that bought judgment for Amaechi that made the Supreme Court, then and I remember the actors that came with that nonsense law that made Amaechi governor by saying that the votes of a political party belongs to you, remember that law was torpedoed and that is why they call it the mischief that section 141 came to cure. And when section 141 came it says unless you have participated in all the stages of any election, no court of tribunal can declare you the winner, so both Justice Binta’s court and the court of appeal that affirmed Jarigbe as candidate know very clearly that there is no way that the Supreme Court would have declared Jarigbe as the winner of that primaries nor the winner of any general election. The issue of the general election that took place on the 5th of December is what the APC candidate, Joseph Odey Agi, SAN has filled at the election petition tribunal that has already resumed.
You brought governor Wike into the matter, is he the one you refer to as the godfather in Port Harcourt?
That is the Port Harcourt man that has been causing the fire in Cross River state and I say it without reservation. I say it openly, he has been on television telling the world how he wants to stand with his friend; Sandy Onor is his friend, Jarigbe is Sandy Onor’s boy so, in the governor’s senatorial district, governor Wike wants the boy of his friend to be a senator in the governor’s senatorial district, oh my God! (Bursts into laughter).
When Jarigbe contested for the House of Reps, Dr. Odey was his campaign DG. At what point did they part ways?
Jarigbe is not a man you should kill yourself or work for and it’s a lesson for everybody that is supporting him today. I also supported him; in fact, I almost fought with his opponent openly on the day of election, my dear brother and friend Jude Ngaji, because of this same young man. Senator Odey was the DG of his campaign, a very humble man with a very good heart, he did not give him ten kobo to fund that campaign, senator Odey took the machinery, funded it, used his vehicle and all of us; I spent millions of naira supporting him in that election because my local government, Yala is twice larger than Ogoja where he comes from. In fact, Senator Odey gave him a higher number of votes, I gave him a higher number of votes than what he got from his ward but today, two of us, he’s fighting us. When I emerged by the grace of God as the anointed consensus from the stakeholders of Northern Senatorial District at the state council of the party to fly the flag of the party, he celebrated it happily because to him the man he thought, Thomas Arukpo, to be the state chairman from Ogoja was going to be a retirement to him. I remember how, I was still talking with him, consulting with him, he transferred 1 million naira to my account; informed me and told me so many things, in fact he was even the one that informed me that Venatius Ikem was not even qualified, he has not spent up to 18 months, it’s shocking that he now goes everywhere with Venatius Ikem as his candidate. They should go and ask people that know about this man, I don’t want to say anything about him, but I want God to judge him; let him go and ask himself, did I win that primaries? If he had won that primaries, no matter my loyalty to the governor and love for Senator Odey, I will stand by the truth and support him. That is my life.
So what do you think he is fighting for? Is that he won the primary election?
Yes, that is what he is telling people. Primaries was ongoing and he turned back at the venue when we started voting, INEC is not here, but you said it is now the INEC report you are using to win the election, that is what he said. I blame the party to an extent because the list of the panel that was to come for this election was already sent out; people that will consult and do what is right. The day we went to collect materials, it was there and then we heard that the chairman has said they should remove two names from there and allow Jarigbe to nominate two persons. His plan was to go to those two people to make sure they would first come up with a report and give a different result and that was exactly what they did, but the question is which ballot paper did you use to win the election? Which result did you use? Who was the chairman of your panel because those two members that he brought, unfortunately were just ordinary mere members of the panel.
Since none of the parties is willing to give up, don’t you think that Cross River North Senatorial District will be affected by this since it’s likely to linger?
Nobody is suffering; we have a senator already sitting and very focused. Just in a few weeks you would have seen that the best brain we sent to the senate in this very dispensation is senator Odey. You saw the motion he moved just last week on the safe school initiative; one would have been sitting there with all the kidnapping all over, 20 million has been sent to the account since Jonathan’s time which would increased to 100 million dollars and that we should have used to provide security in this country and build fences; but how many senators will remember? But because God had come in human form to raise senator Odey, God is leading him on the right part.
There are reports that Dr. Odey is being sent to the senate by Governor Ayade to pave way for him in 2023 to return to the senate.
I am not aware of that, Senator Odey is 47 to 48 years old; he ran election and his mandate will expire in 2023 and I want everybody to get it very clear. The Senate seat in Cross River North moves between two federal constituencies. Once it’s in Yala/Ogoja, if we have a bigger office it stays in Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku. In 2015, because senator Ayade was the sitting senator from 2011 to 2015, he would have continued from 2015 to 2019 but when the governorship went to that axis, late senator Rose Oko who was in the house of reps graduated to the senate. And Yala and Ogoja we share house of reps together, we thank God, the house of reps that was meant for Ogoja/Yala which senator Rose Oko was holding now went to Ogoja. In 2019 the people of Ogoja said please, now that Governor Ayade is running his second term, allow this senate to go to Ogoja so that Ogoja people will taste this senate for the first time. Because Jarigbe knows that he doesn’t even have the money, he doesn’t even have the contacts, he needed state power and baking to remain in the house of reps. The present commissioner for foreign affairs was accepted across the whole of Yala and Ogoja, even those of us in Yala were not in support of the woman there, we wanted the senate to move to Ogoja; because one, she was challenged by health and we needed her rest and go and take care or herself because the pressure was too much not because she was not representing us intellectually well, no but, we said it was good for her to listen to her body not her heart, go and rest. But you see, whether that was a contributing factor to her death or not, may her soul continue to rest in peace. But the same Jarigbe was the one that fought against Ogoja not having the Senate in 2019. Today the same thing you said should be in Yala, we have someone to come and complete it; you’re holding your house of reps and you want to come and taste the Senate. Go and read the Bible, the effect of greed of Ahab and Gehazi; that is what will befall Jarigbe.